The Building Blocks of a Sustainable Home
In the past, many people have sought out homes that were built several decades ago – or even some that are more than a century old. That’s because older homes are quite stylish, classical, stately, and quaint. But one adjective that usually doesn’t describe vintage homes? Green.
Nowadays, a growing number of Americans prefer homes that are much more environmentally-conscious. And those who want to build new residences strive to make sure that their homes are as eco-friendly as possible. So if you’re looking to construct a sustainable home, here are the building blocks that will maximize its “greenness” without sacrificing aesthetics.
Start From the Ground Up
A truly sustainable home begins with a plot that itself embraces environmentally-friendly principles. Ideally, the property should be sloped enough to facilitate water runoff into a garden area, lawn, or body of water instead of sitting on flat land. While trees on the property are fine, there should be enough sunlight reaching the home site to benefit from solar energy and natural heating. If possible, the site should be adaptable enough to utilize wind or geothermal power as well.
Look to the Sun
Next, it’s important to orient the home properly to take advantage of natural light and warmth from the sun. Position the home on an east-west plane and place large windows strategically to better take advantage of the sun. In cooler climates, the windows should be on the south side of the home to attract more heat to warm the home. Conversly, north-facing windows and south-side shade are more appropriate for homes in warmer climes that prefer the sunlight without its heat.
The interior floor plan of the home should also allow natural light and airflow to keep the inside as comfortable and pleasant as possible. For instance, open floor plans result in fewer walls to block heat, cool air, ventilation, or light, which means less energy is necessary to achieve the optimum temperature or brightness. In addition, the rooms should be sized properly without superfluous space that requires more energy to heat, cool, or illuminate it. You can even build in what’s known as a “solar chimney” that also acts to naturally vent hot air.
Use Materials That are Friendly to the Earth
Obviously, the home should be constructed using sustainable, eco-friendly components whenever practical. Insist on recycled/repurposed bricks, aluminum, glass, and timber when picking out your building materials. Your walls should be breathable and utilize lime, sand, cement, and stone bricks or composites instead of unsustainable drywall. Floors can be made of cork, bamboo, or recycled wood or tile, and your windows should be double or triple glazed to keep interior warm and cool air from escaping outside. Finally, the home should we as well-insulated as possible, and only low toxicity finishes and paints should adorn the interior surfaces.
Be an Energy Miser
Finally, the functional aspects of the home should be designed with energy savings in mind. Pendant or LED lighting, ceiling fans, and low-flow faucets and showerheads should be the rule, along with programmable thermostats and timers on lights and electronics. Appliances should be ENERGY STAR certified, and solar heating panels and water heaters will make the home even more energy-efficient.
Before you start building your sustainable home, make sure that you hire contractors and architects who have experience with eco-friendly materials and sustainable design. Always remain open to suggestions regarding how to reduce your home’s environmental footprint. And never pinch pennies by using a less green material; after all, the sustainable material will usually pay off in the long run with greater durability and lower energy bills. When your sustainable home is finally finished, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re embracing green living practices every single day.
Written by Del Thebaud